…rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
We live in a culture that promotes comfort. If you talk to people about suffering, sometimes they will check out of the conversation.
Let’s be honest, I don’t enjoy suffering or persecution.
I have learned and am learning that if we only eat dessert, we don’t grow. We need situations in our lives where we don’t get our way, we don’t understand, the answer is no or wait, there are obstacles or problems to overcome. If we don’t have them, we remain spiritually and emotionally immature. We don’t grow up. We stay on the same level.
The idea God only wants us to feel good is toxic. Growth doesn’t always feel good. Do you recall being younger and experiencing growth pains, losing teeth so new ones could come, or homework? It didn’t always feel good. The end result was good.
Is every hardship God growing us? No. I think it’s valuable to examine Godly challenges versus what’s of the devil. God can turn what’s of the devil into a blessing; that doesn’t mean He set up the suffering, challenge, or setback.
There’s Godly suffering/challenges and evil suffering/challenges. Let’s lay these out on the table.
Godly suffering, trials, or challenges:
- It’s for the Gospel. The Bible says the Godly will suffer persecution and be hated (2 Timothy 3:12, John 15:18).
- It produces Godly character and develops patience (James 1:3, Romans 5:4).
- It leads to eventual blessing (Hebrews 12:2, Job 42:10, Genesis 50:20).
What Godly suffering is not:
- It is not a call to sickness, disease, or demonic oppression. Jesus healed the sick and delivered the oppressed (examples in Mark 1:34, Matthew 4:23-25).
- It is not a call to poverty. Jesus told us to care for the poor (Proverbs 29:4, Proverbs 22:9, Galatians 2:10) . If I’m poor, how can I help you?
- It is not a call to abuse or being abused/controlled/manipulatd.Those are demonic forces. Abuse is not love. Control is not love. Jesus stood up for the oppressed, and outcasts of society (John 4, John 8).
Holy Spirit University Lessons
Have you been enrolled? It’s amazing if you do. I liken the work of Holy Spirit to being enrolled in a University. Salvation is our ticket into HSU. Everyone has a schedule, map (the Bible), and a mentor (Holy Spirit). The courses are designed to grow us into the character of Jesus and help us fulfill our destiny.
No worries if you don’t do well in a course. You don’t get grades here. You can take a class as many times as you need. Even after you pass you will be tested on what you’ve learned or move on to the next level.
Suffering 101-301: I did not enroll myself in this class. I was born into trauma. I have no space to tell you all my war stories. Just know this class is ongoing.
What I’ve learned/am learning:
- The supernatural comfort and power of God.
- The power of God to heal and deliver.
- The great compassion, mercy, and goodness of God.
Persecution 101-107: I don’t enjoy this class. Yet I have seen the most fruit from these challenges. I’ve been in this class for 7 years.
What I have learned/ am learning:
- To allow God to defend me (work in progress). He is my defense.
- People are not my enemy. I have just 1 and Jesus beat him with two sticks.
- To rely solely on God’s love and acceptance.
One coworker harassed me at work; regularly tried to get me fired. She eventually gave her life to Jesus. She said, “I knew the Spirit of God was in you.” I never retaliated, tried to hurt her, nor treated her poorly no matter how awful. Don’t get me wrong, there was lots of prayer. Years of being beat down without Human Resources help. People kept saying to quit. I just didn’t have the “Go” in my spirit.
I am not advocating staying in an abusive or toxic situation. If it’s physical violence or sexual abuse, get help immediately. If it’s verbal abuse, get help. God does not approve of abuse or expect you to tolerate it.
Rejection 101-301: I’m almost at home in this class. I’m growing accustomed to being misunderstood, left out, pushed aside, put in the back, or ignored, etc…sometimes it bothers me when it comes from Christians. I’m learning claiming Jesus and loving like Him are not the same. People (myself included) must receive God’s love in order to give it away.
There are people in my family who rejected me for sharing the Gospel or for no reason. I love them. I try not to allow their behavior to dictate my joy.
What I’ve learned/am learning:
- My audience must be God. If He says thumbs up, it doesn’t matter if the world says thumbs down.
- God withholds nothing good. God sets up relationships that are mutual blessings.
- Preference matters. I like mangoes. You may like peaches. Both are good. It’s a matter of preference.
- Don’t rely on or need the approval of man; it changes like the shifting tide. People can love you today and hate you tomorrow.
Those are just some of the courses I’ve been in for a very long time.
I used to lament, “Why me?” I came to the conclusion that I choose whether to be a victim or victor. How people behave is a reflection of their heart, experiences, or circumstances. People can only give the love they have first received from God.
I found that our suffering helps us to have compassion for others and patience with them.
More than sympathy…
I was praying with someone who just broke down, tears streaming. This person had endured horrific, sustained abuse. When I touched the person I felt it. I cried with them. Why? I understand abuse. I know what it’s like for people take out their rage or frustrations on me. I know what it’s like to blame myself instead of the other person.
I know what it’s like to feel unloved, like the dog people like to kick. I told the person, “I know exactly how you feel. I was abused too. This is not your fault.” When those words were spoken, a glimmer of hope appeared in those tear filled eyes.
The prayer time with this person was not a pity session, or I must make up sympathy for you. It was a “I’ve been here and I’m entering into this pain with you.” I just rocked the person, held them, and spoke out God’s love and affirmation; we cried.
Let me tell you something sweet friends. God enters into our suffering. He’s not watching it trying to work up sympathy. His heart is pounding in His chest, “That’s hurting My child.” His heart is for us. Jesus suffered for us and suffers with us. There’s intimacy forged in suffering with Jesus.
Some of the strongest bonds are forged between people who go through challenges together.
Jesus did everything the Father told Him to do. It led to the cross. Jesus faced Gethsemane, the cross, all before His resurrection. Sometimes what feels like death is an invitation to glory. An olive is crushed before the oil flows. It’s not suffering for no reason. It’s a pressing, strengthening season.
God wastes nothing. Once we overcome, we can then assist others in overcoming. The Spirit of Breakthrough begins to flows through us when we walk through the valley with God. We are released, through abiding, into new levels of understanding, compassion, and authority.